In early November, the impending winter slipped quietly into my awareness, like an unwanted relative casually stopping by. Days shortened and the wind bit through layers of clothing. An early snow beat out my lawn service and froze the leaves to the grass. Darkness arrived well before dinner, confusing any sense of time. Eight o’clock could easily have been midnight.
Exhausted from yard work in the bitter cold, I would fall into bed early, only to awaken at 1 a.m. with crushing anxiety. The remaining hours of the winter night seemed endless.
Fourteen hours of dark arrived just in time for Christmas, fueling the mental/emotional need for holiday lights. Early in the evening, my family always walked through the neighborhood to view the light display of one house. Both magnificent and garish, the lights provided a lone brilliant moment in the winter dreariness. When the holiday was over, the blackness of January descended like a weighted blanket.
On a cold afternoon this month, I stumbled onto a library copy of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May. According to May, wintering is that season when the challenges of life slow us down and we slip through the cracks. We drop off the radar, mostly due to the weight of our days.
May’s self-effacing style, soothing and honest, creates a confidential moment. We are sisters of heart- two people who have traveled the same path of depression and anxiety. Her struggles with sleeplessness and nighttime angst feel both relatable and validating.
“Wintering” is not a bad thing, but a season of acceptance and a surrendering of control. A time of self-care and finding peace. A season of downtime, allowing space for the sheltering of our hearts.
Reflecting the mood, mornings are overcast – today a light, fairy-like snow is falling. The blanketed yard is in hibernation and informs me I should hunker down and write, write, write. But writing flies in the face of this wintering. This time of the year, when the yard and house are no longer a distraction, and the weather does not allow for nights on the porch, reading and writing should be a priority. Instead, I do constant battle against my urge to sleep, eat comfort foods and binge Netflix.
This winter season arrived after such a long slog of challenges. For now, my husband’s health is gradually returning. With my hip replaced, I am finally pain free and in good shape. I have no money worries at the moment. My kids are all happy. I no longer work outside of my writing, so no office politics or crazy boss to stress me out. I am master of my days no matter how short and lazy they become.
My “wintering” coincides with the actual season, although it doesn’t always happen that way. I sense if I am patient I will find a rhythm to the days- a balance between the light and the dark, doubt and belief, rest and creativity. Instead of moaning about the cold, ice and snow, I bless it and the retreat it brings. Both morning and evening, I bundle against the elements, slip on my crampons, and head out to the nearby park to fill my lungs with the cold. Breathing in the freezing air is my reset button and reminds me I’m still alive.